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Friday, July 8, 2011

F3TV: Briefly... on the ABC soap online rescue

Film Flam Flummox

As a viewer of the ABC Daytime drama lineup for a little over (gasp) two decades, the initial reaction to the unexpected news that the recently cancelled One Life to Live and All My Children will now actually continue on a yet-to-be-launched Internet site following their final network broadcasts (AMC on September 23; OLTL sometime in January) was that of relief--after all, while my interest in the shows wane with the natural ebbs and flows of serial storytelling with constant turnover of writers, producers, and cast, it would be rather unimaginable to no longer have such constant staples of my TV diet completely gone. But then a certain reality set in. The soap opera genre has long suffered budget cuts as ratings have steadily declined over the years; with the move from the tube to the computer, no doubt further cuts are in store, and that budget will only be further reduced by the cut ABC/Disney will take from Prospect Park, the production company to whom they have licensed the production and online broadcast rights. But, perhaps more damaging of all, is the inevitable exodus of acting talent from both shows with the shift from the small to even-smaller screen. As much as the officlal press release insists that production quality will remain the same, what good is that when the core of the show--the canvas of characters--could very well be unrecognizable, as undoubtedly a number of actors would opt to pursue traditionally greener pastures in network and cable television and film. (And indeed, Debbi Morgan, who has played longtime All My Children fan favorite Dr. Angie Hubbard, is reportedly heading to CBS's The Young and the Restless once her show's ABC run concludes.) Then there's the question of how much lag time there will be between the end of the shows' respective network runs and their reappearance online; with neither an official name, much less a preliminary site set up yet for Prospect Park's television site, there certainly will be a time gap, and one that will have to be as brief as possible to maintain any sort of viewership momentum from TV to web. That said, I remain cautiously optimistic despite those inevitable concessions for the shows' survival. Their no longer being produced by ABC means being finally free of the clutches of fan-reviled ABC Daytime president Brian Frons, whose meddling, micromanaging hands have driven AMC and OLTL to their broadcast demises and continues to bleed dry the network's sole surviving soap, General Hospital. Perhaps the new producers, freedom from broadcast restraints, and streamlined casts will open the doors to a creative renaissance with riskier, edgier stories that harken back to the genre's character-driven roots and not the plot-driven gimmicks that have plagued all soaps in recent years. As the soap cliché goes, to find out I guess we'll all just have to tune in tomorrow...

Buy ABC's Daytime's Greatest Weddings DVD here.

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